Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Year in Review

2011 is coming to a close and I'm a bit sad to see it go. It has been an unbelievable year for me. Entering the year, I had a minor knee injury that became a major problem. It turned into severely painful tendonitis that had me thinking dark thoughts about my prospects for the year. Fortunately, after some back and forth, I found a doctor that helped me quickly get to the bottom of things and the rest is history. I went from a 3:55 marathoner to dreaming of a 3:10 BQ in one calendar year. It was a combination of hard work and good fortune. Here are a few of the statistics that demonstrate my hard work through the year:
  • More than 2500 miles of running
  • More than 430 hours of running time
  • Nearly 190,000 vertical feet climbed
  • 30 runs of 18 miles or longer
  • 22 runs of 20 miles or longer
  • 4 marathons and 1 ultramarthon (races only)
My body responded to all that stimulus in a big way!  I spent most of the year training for some event and ended up competing in 9 total. Nearly every one of those events was a personal best.  Here are a few of my new personal records:
  • 5K (20:19 unofficially during training, 20:42 officially at Turkey Trot)
  • 10K (40:39 unofficially during training)
  • Half marathon (1:37:30 officially at GT, 1:36:15 unofficially at Vegas RnR)
  • Marathon (3:45 at Colfax, then 3:34 at Steamboat, and finally 3:19 at Vegas RnR)
  • 50 Miles (10:05 at Leadville Silver Rush)
While all of that was great, perhaps the two best things that have come out of this year are my increased fitness level and my new friends. I have transformed myself from a 220 pound sloth just hoping to finish a marathon into a 185 pound fitness junkie. People that I have known for a long time have actually stopped me to ask if I am sick (because of the dramatic change, I hope that's why!). Others just stare in amazement and ask me how I did it. And of course, I have had the good German family suggesting I need to eat more! It is a huge confidence boost to have people outwardly notice my healthy lifestyle. I like to think I am being a role model for my family and friends.

Maybe the greatest gift of all this year was a whole new group of friends -- and getting closer to some old ones -- that inspire me. I have watched all of you grow and enjoyed your company. In fact, I consider myself blessed to have been part of the following: training with strong runners like Jen and Jon, being at the finish line to see Chuck complete a 2:53 marathon, coach and cheer my big sister to a marathon PR, pace my daughter in the Bolder Boulder, and pace Karen to a monster marathon PR. And I almost have my wife convinced to be a runner. Almost. Those memories and friendships have been a huge part of my year. And I thank all of you for inspiring me and being part of my story.

A year in review blog wouldn't be complete without  a list of my best running moments. This list is not in order because there is no way good way to sort them. Every event meant something to me in ways that make them impossible to separate.
For giggles, here are some of the under-the-radar moments during training
And finally a few of my favorite photos from 2011

One of my highs during the Silver Rush 50

The hard work and support of my crew in Leadville.  

Feeling totally overwhelmed after finishing the Leadville Marathon.

Hanging with Tony at the Lead King Loop trail race.

Running with Karen during the Steamboat Marathon.

April and Eileen.  Need I say more?

A family outing at the Bolder Boulder.

The kids preparing to run the Lead King Kids Race 2.5k.

My kids joining me for the last 50 yards of the Leadville Marathon.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Boxing Day Bear Peak Summit

One of the great pleasures of the last twelve months for me has been the number of new friends that I have made from running. Some of those friends are in different states like South Dakota, Nebraska, and California. And many of those of friends are right here in town, including several that live within a few short miles. One friend (Nico) that I made lives in Boulder and is a trail running fanatic. He messaged me a few weeks ago and asked me to come to Boulder and enjoy some of their great trails. Being a suburb guy, I like to take as many opportunities as I can to get out and see my native state, so naturally I accept.  And I brought another new running friend, Greg, for our first run together.

Our original plan was to do somewhere between 18 and 20 miles and hit both Bear Peak and Green Mountain. Unfortunately, both Greg and I were a little unprepared for the conditions, the difficulty of the trails, and the time commitment (at least in my case). We didn't get far before we figured out that it we would have to cut this short and see Green Mountain another day.

This is the view from the Shanahan Ridge Trail Head. From the trail head we began south so that we could head through Shadow Canyon and then summit Bear Peak from behind. 

The first 2 miles were pretty slow trail running as we approached Shadow Canyon. The running was slow, but we were moving.  However, the wind was whipping at more than 20 MPH with gusts easily above 30 MPH. After a few miles we started climbing. It was more than 2,000 feet of climbing to get to Bear Peak over a 2 mile stretch. Denver and Boulder were hit with a huge snow storm last week, thus there is a ton of snow on the trails. That obviously made things difficult! Below is a picture of Nico as we were less than a half mile to the summit. Not long after I took this photo, we ran out of trail. We had to make our own through fresh snow that was up to waist deep in places. We stopped to look at these tracks and use our expert wilderness experience to determine what type of animal it was. The consensus was that it was probably a mountain lion.

Just before we got to the summit, we had climb on all fours like bears up the remaining section through fresh powder. Then we found a little bit of remaining trail at the top.  Here is a photo of Greg at the summit of Bear Peak looking to the West. I was trying to capture the depth of the snow to get a sense for the conditions.

Nico took these photos of the two of us. Again, you can see how deep and fresh the snow was.



Here we are overlooking the Boulder area from the peak.  

This is a photo looking West toward the mountains. I believe that is Long's Peak off in the distance.

Another photo looking West (and perhaps a bit South) from the summit.

The actual summit of the peak was at the top of a small rock field. We didn't climb the rocks, so I guess we didn't technically summit. But there is one person (in the photo) that did.

Another summit photo, this one looking Southeast toward my neck of the woods (Castle Rock).

Before we left the summit, Nico asked us if we wanted to go the short way (a very steep 3 miles) or the long way (5 miles), which was supposed to be a "mellower" grade and more runnable. We decided to go the long way since we were already cutting out Green Mountain. The long way turned out to be long indeed. But I am not sure I would have wanted to see the "steeper" direction! The first mile down off the summit was pretty steep and snowy. Getting down was a combination of trail running and skiing. You could literally angle yourself and just slide down the mountain. It was actually kind of fun and easier than it sounds because you could rely on the snow to break your fall and brace any impact. The downside was that it was difficult to find a real trail and see any obstacles that might exist.

From the summit we headed down the Bear Peak West Ridge and then returned down to the car via Bear Canyon. At one point, Greg remarked that he wasn't having much fun. His quads were a little burned up from the climb and then the steep descent. Personally I really enjoyed the descent. Once we made our way onto Bear Canyon Trail, the grade subsided and the running picked up. Greg got a little more peppy at that point.

Here is a photo of a little bridge we crossed along Bear Canyon Creek.

And one last photo that Nico took of Greg and I running through Bear Canyon.


In the end we had a ton of fun, but it was extremely challenging. I was mostly comfortable with the exception of the peak where the wind was extremely intense. My feet got a little wet after nearly 4 hours. (But the screw shoes did a great job!) I should have been prepared with more liquids as well. While this type of activity is not running in the sense that a marathoner would train, it was very intense exercise. The combination of climbing, changing from hiking to running, and limited nutrition were all good experience for Greg and I and our LT100 training.  And it is good cross training for the legs! Perhaps most importantly, where else do you get so see such beauty? We are so fortunate to live in this wonderful state. I sometimes feel like I take it for granted.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Weekly Training Wrap - 12/19 – 12/25

If you have followed my training lately you know two things: 1) I am in between training cycles for the first time in a while and 2) the Denver metro area is getting TONS of snow. Thus it is hard to describe my training lately. It's been a bit of an ad-hoc situation. I am trying to mix in some gradually longer runs in an effort to keep my fitness and endurance. However, judging the effective pace of each run is difficult due to the poor road conditions outside. All in all, I'm happy with the past few weeks. Though I have discovered the joy of easier paces again!

This week I finally crossed the 2500 mile mark. It is a pretty arbitrary number in the grand scheme of things. But the implications of that number are huge. First of all, it shows that I have put in an incredible training year with a base large enough to make a number of different goals possible. It is easily double my previous "PR". And secondly, it is a sign that my body (combined with my training approach) can handle significant miles without undue risk of nagging injury. Along the way I have done back-to-back long runs, 40 to 80 mile weeks, and 4 to 8 workouts a week. And none of it has bothered me in any significant fashion. As I look ahead at the schedule for 2012, this peace of mind is invaluable.

The final week of 2011 will be another ad hoc plan, but I am going to get some trail work with a DailyMile group in Boulder. I am really looking forward to that. Hopefully I will put the final touches on some more plans for 2012 as well. The few things to do in that regard are to finish LT100 accommodations and to finalize other training events I want to enter. I think I have come up with a training plan for the Colorado Marathon suits me. The mileage is based around an ultra marathon as the event. There will be a huge emphasis on weekend long running. During the week I am going to mix in some training specific runs for a marathon (tempo work, interval work, etc...). I probably won't set a goal for Colorado until the event is closer, but certainly another shot at 3:15 (and a PR) is in the back of my mind.

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest
Tuesday 7 Easy pace
Wednesday11 Progressive ending at GA pace
Thursday 6GA pace
Friday7 GA pace
Saturday 15 GA pace
Sunday 4 Easy pace
Total 50 About 3900 vertical feet gained

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Weekly Training Wrap - 12/12 – 12/18

Not much new to add this week. This was just a filler week as I recover from my marathon and ramp up for 2012. Marathon recovery seems complete (or nearly so) as quicker paces feel comfortable. With Christmas coming up, I have acquired a bunch of new running gear for 2012.  And, as usual this time of year, I am spending a ton of time reflecting on this great season and looking forward to next!

I have two more races to add to my schedule. One will be the San Juan Solstice 50 miler on June 23rd.  Registration does not open until mid January and it fills quickly. The course is extremely difficult. So much so, they say you can double your time and comfortably predict a LT100 mile outcome (most 50 milers they recommend 2.5x your time). I need to fine something in July, but I am waiting on family vacation plans to commit. I may just end up doing the Leadville Silver Rush as a nice long training run. That is a convenient one because it doesn't fill and I have lots of time to think it over. It has the obvious benefit of being in Leadville for race simulation type considerations.

I also want to get out and hit some cool trails this summer to both train and scout for Leadville.  My wife and I usually exchange "trips" where we each get to go somewhere with our friends for 3 - 5 days. This year I am thinking of using my trip to pack up a tent and go hit the trails for 4 or 5 days. A good portion of that time will be spent in Leadville to scout out parts of the course.  I definitely want to see Hope Pass at least once before race day.

Day Miles Notes
Monday 5 Easy pace
Tuesday 10 GA pace
Thursday 8GA pace
Friday5 Recovery pace
Saturday 13 GA pace (faster side)
Sunday 6 Easy pace
Total 47 About 3600 vertical feet gained

Monday, December 12, 2011

Weekly Training Wrap - 12/05 – 12/11

One week since the big marathon race attempt has come and gone. Racing a marathon is hard and I don't like the recovery time.  I am going as slow as I can, trying not to injure myself. But the patience required is more than I had expected. When I ran my ultra, it didn't hurt this much. I was completely wiped out of energy for about two weeks (though some of that may have been recovering from the virus I caught right before the race), but I never hurt like this. My previous marathon PR was the final run in a 70 mile week. And I was back to running big miles the next week, culminating in a 34 mile run just six days after a marathon PR (though clearly not a race effort).

My schedule for 2012 is starting to come together. I signed up for the Colorado Marathon in May. Why? Is it so I can have another crack at this marathon thing and erase the disappointment of Vegas? Is it because I have a FOMO (fear of missing out) and want to go hang with a bunch of friends in Fort Collins? Maybe it is because there just isn't a lot of trail running to be had before May?  I don't know the answer, but I'm in. The bigger question is: how will I train? I followed the Pfitz 18/55 plan pretty diligently for Vegas. While I feel that plan had me prepared, I am ultimately training for 100 miles this year. Nothing is set in stone, but I think I am going to follow a plan for a 50 mile ultra and mix in some work for lactate threshold paces and marathon paces. The primary difference between the Pfitz 18/70 plan and the plan I will use is that Pfitz has more days per week (6 on average) and the occasional double recovery. In the end, my plan will actually have fewer total miles than the Pfitz 18/70 plan. But when I run, it will usually be for big(ger) miles. This means lots of slow running on the weekends to work on glycogen-to-fat burning ratios and endurance. That plan should leave me with a solid base to spring board toward the final 14 weeks of training for LT100.

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest
Tuesday Rest
Wednesday5 GA pace
Thursday 4Recovery pace
Friday 3 Recovery pace
Saturday 7 GA pace
Sunday 7 GA pace
Total 26 About 2000 vertical feet gained

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Weekly Training Wrap - 11/28 – 12/4

I ran my goal marathon this week.  You can read a detailed version of my race report, but let's just say that I executed my race plan poorly and it cost me.  I still had a good result, but not what I hoped.  The big question is what's next?  Obviously my entire season is going to be built around LT100, but it doesn't mean I cannot have a little fun first.  I have outlined a rough training strategy that I hope to follow.  Included in the plan are some potential races.  Unfortunately, time will not allow me to do them all, so I have to pick a few.  After last weekend's blown attempt at 3:15, I am feeling a little anxious to try again.  The most important thing is to pick sensible goals that are helping me toward my 100 mile adventure.

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest
Tuesday 6 Recovery pace
Wednesday7 Dress Rehersal: 2 x 7:12
Thursday Rest
Friday 4 Recovery pace
Saturday 4 Recovery pace
Sunday 26 Vegas RnR 7:33 pace
Total 48 About 2000 vertical feet gained

Monday, December 5, 2011

Las Vegas RnR Marathon Race Report

Yesterday was my first real attempt to race a marathon and my last goal race of 2011. It is bitter sweet because I have come a long way (an hour faster than my first marathon attempt in 2009), but I missed my goal of 3:15. It may seem like I am sulking to those that have talked to me. And perhaps I am a little. But I am actually quite happy with my time. While I would not pretend that it cost me my goal, I have to be honest in saying that it was a terrible event (more on that later). My sister deserves thanks for shuttling me around and taking care of my needs while she waited for the half marathon to begin.

Before getting into the race review, here are a few things to keep in mind as you read:
  1. Finishing a race poorly sucks.  I already knew this, but I was reminded in a big way. Not only is it demotivating, but it shapes your view of the whole experience.
  2. Conserver your glycogen. It is the most likely factor to determine your race fate. I ran above lactate threshold pace for too long, too early and it cost me.
  3. Don't run angry. I let the events that were unfolding get to me and I lost focus of what I was trying to accomplish.  
Here is how the race unfolded:

Miles 1 - 6.5
Being a night race, I was really unsure about how to approach race day nutrition. I tried to eat carbs slowly and consistently throughout the day and stay hydrated. We arrived in Las Vegas about 3 hours before the race. After getting my bib and changing my corral, we pretty much sat around and waited for the race to start. About 45 minutes before the race I began to feel hungry and had a horrible feeling I had not eaten enough to top off my glycogen. I returned to the race festivity area and grabbed a banana to eat. And I was also nursing some electrolytes, but tried not to drink too much to avoid having to use the restroom in the early miles of the race. The race day weather was a perfect 50 degrees with only a slight wind. Since it is late fall, it was almost cold, particularly because it was cooling down as the race unfolded.

It was apparent that the RnR people did not care about corrals. People were moving freely to wherever they wanted to be. The 3:15 pacer didn't show up until about 2 minutes to go. Immediately after the race started, we headed west across the highway to an industrial part of Las Vegas. My stomach was in distress within the first few miles. I am fairly certain it was the contents of my stomach. The distress did not impact my performance, but it was uncomfortable. I ran this way most of the first half. At about mile six, I stopped and urinated to alleviate some of the pressure. I continued to feel uneasy about my energy levels, so I took my first gel shot before completing seven miles.

At this point, I was hanging with the 3:15 pacer pretty well. I found his splits to be a little erratic even though we were on point overall.

6.5 - 13.1
Miles 6 through 10 were more of the same -- stomach distress and hanging with the pacer. Just passed mile eight they had huge tables of Roctane and I grabbed a handful. Despite my stomach distress, I managed to empty my handheld (20 oz) and refill. Finally, at about mile 9, my stomach started feeling better. The pacer pulled over to the side of the road for water and a small pack of runners kept going. The course was heading downhill and I felt good. I knew I was going too fast, but found it hard to stop. This pattern of ignoring what I knew was wrong continued to the half way point where I came in with a 1:36:15 split -- a minute plus half PR. I wasn't too worried about the pace because it was only a minute faster than anticipated and I wanted a small cushion for a fade. Just before the halfway point I took my second Roctane of the night.

This concluded our loopy tour through West Las Vegas. Now we got to run to the strip for the real excitement.

13.1 - 20
This section did me in. The runners came under the Mandalay Bay hotel and through a huge crowd -- awesome. And then we merged with the half marathon runners. The half marathon runners started an hour and a half after the full marathon runners so they could run the second half of the race along the strip at night. However, they had timed it such that half marathoners were about 10 corrals released by the time I got to the merge. Having just run a 1:36 half, I got merged with runners going at less than a 9 minute pace. I was pissed and I started running angry. The half marathoners were disrespectful of their lanes on the course and water stations were a free for all. I just kept running fast, attempting to break out of the congestion of 33,200 half marathoners.

By mile 16 my quads were burning and I knew I was burning up glycogen too quickly. But the damage had been done. I had few options other than to slow a bit and hope for the best. It was made more difficult because the lanes they set up for half and full marathoners maintained through corners. This meant that sometimes you ran the turn wide and sometimes narrow, depending on the direction the turn. It was impossible to run true tangents without changing lanes. Bikers were riding along the cones between the lanes urging half marathoners to stay in their lane. Marathoners were screaming and elbowing half marathoners. It was total chaos. I took another Roctane about mile 19. The water station I stopped at was out of Cytomax, so I got water.

I finished this section already fading. I slowed down during mile 19 (7:24 compared to sub-7:20 average pace to this point). I managed two more decent miles for miles 21 and 22 (7:11 and 7:40).

22 - 26
By mile 22 I was in damage control mode. I knew that 3:15 was a long shot, but I still had several minutes of cushion. Each mile was slower than the last. I was beginning to cramp and stopped briefly in the 23rd mile to massage my right hamstring. Fortunately, I found the proper angle and determined it hurt less to run than continue standing. I was fighting mentally to just keep running even though every muscle in my body wanted to stop. My quads hurt and both feet had multiple hotspots -- worse than anything my feet had ever felt. I took one last hailmary Roctane at mile 25. As Jon had warned, I had burned up all my glycogen and was running on pure fumes at this point. Altitude (oxygen) was not the limiting factor, energy was and I had spent it all.  Here I was running down Las Vegas Boulevard under the lights and I'll could think was, "Please Lord let this end soon".

And then the final kick to the head came at 25.5 miles on the Garmin (little more than 25 miles into the race) when the 3:15 pacer finally passed me. I tried to keep up with him for about .15 miles and just couldn't do it. I doubt he finished in 3:15 considering he passed me so late. When I made the final turn into the festivities area, I ran as fast as could. Final time 3:19:24. A 15 minute PR. I officially finished 177th out of 3787 overall, 163 out of 2398 in men, and 32 out of 481 in my age group.

Post race
After the race, I stumbled toward gear check as I drank about 40 ounces of fluid and ate energy bars, pretzels, and a bagel. I was dehydrated and having GI distress. Once I got my gear bag and put on dry clothes I began to walk back to find my sister at our designated meeting area. My hands were shaking terribly while I attempted to use my phone to text Jon and call my family. I was very, very cold. About 60 minutes after the race I had recovered and felt much better. We made the drive back to St. George and got home around midnight.

Here is a little clip from Top Gun sums up how I went about my race strategy -- so close yet so far:

A bit about the course and RnR experience
This was the second largest event I have done -- second only to the Bolder Boulder. It was a total disaster in my opinion. In particular, the merge between the half and full marathon was poorly thought out and even more poorly executed. The corrals were not enforced and runners of all different ability were all over the second half of the course. Water stations were littered in cups and excess water. And it was a RnR event, which meant poor course design, flyovers across highways, many u-turns around random cones in lonely streets. Worse yet, less than half of the course was on the strip and that was supposed to be the main attraction. The one upside was that the crowd support was pretty darn good, especially in the second half of the race.  Given these challenges, I think 3:15 was a reasonable goal had I been smart and followed my pacer until the last few miles. There was little chance of a better time. After poor experiences at Las Vegas and Denver, I don't think I will do another RnR event as a goal race.

** UPDATE ** The Las Vegas RnR Facebook page is getting crushed.  They have acknowledged the following issues:
  • Crowding at the start line and finish line (some people could not get into their corrals)
  • Mandalay Bay post race (the hotel was overwhelmed with people at gear check)
  • The merge of the marathon and half (total disaster, enough said)
  • Difficulty distributing participant amenities (not enough gear bags, shirts, medals, or post-race food)
  • Aid stations along the course (ran out of water and Cytomax)
There are also reports of runners being given non-potable water and getting sick afterwards.

Here is an image that captures what the "merge" looked like.  The red arrow points to about the spot where marathoners were turning the corner and being met with a wall of half marathoners.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fueling the Runner Part II

In part I of this series of posts, I discussed how many calories to eat and tools you can use to determine the proper amount for you. Before proceeding onto the point of this post -- what to eat -- I want to summarize a few things I've learned by tracking my calories over the past month. First of all, I think my initial projections were too low. The first week I lost 2.5 pounds unintentionally. With a little more research I settled on my base metabolic rate as "light" instead of "sedentary" and then, when my running is factored in, it comes out to more like 3600 calories per day that I need to be eating. Again, I encourage the runner that is consistently averaging more than 40 miles per week to view it holistically and not day-to-day. If you are in this category, then aim for the same number consistently whether you run 5 miles or 25 miles. Eating more than you need on recovery/rest days will ensure that you are well fueled for the future workouts. If you are less consistent about your workouts, then I would look at it as net calories per day. Under this model, you aim for your base metabolic calories everyday and then "earn" more by exercising.

Now that you've established how many calories a day it takes to sustain your body, some consideration needs to be paid to what you eat.  Calories typically come from four sources (called macro nutrients): carbohydrates, protein, fat, and alcohol. Alcohol is sort of a special category, but those calories can add up!  Note that each broad category can be broken down into more fine categories. For example, fat comes as either saturated fat, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat. That is why you will sometimes here fats that are not "saturated" called "good fat". Carbohydrates and protein are both 4 calories per gram. Fat is nearly 9 calories per gram, more than double. Eating fat will then have the by product of leaving you feeling less "full", but taking in many more calories. Also note that the body does not process all these calories the same in terms of efficiency with regards to blood, oxygen, etc...

So, what should a runner eat? The table below shoes a break down of the recommended percentages of your diet that come from each type according to different sources.

USRDA MyPlate Pfitz Karno Me
Carbs 60% 50% 70% 40%40%
Fat 30% 25% 15% 30%35%
Protein 10% 25% 15% 30%20%

Pfitz refers to the book Advanced Marathoning and Karno refers to the book Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes.

Each of the sources above has their own explanation for their recommendation. I won't go into detail about that logic, but here are a few things to consider about the background of each source of food. For a runner, the carbohydrates are the most important fuel source because they are the ones that your body needs when running. The closer you get to lactate threshold paces, the higher percentage of your calories come from carbohydrates for energy. Your body can typically store enough carbohydrates to run about 20 miles, which is part of the reason most marathoners hit the wall around 20 miles. Your body can store enough fat (depending on how lean you are) to run hundreds of miles. But, the process of converting fat to a usable energy source is so inefficient that you will have to slow way down (to nearly a walk) to keep moving forward. Protein is important for muscle repair and growth. If you are running lots of miles, then your muscles need to repair from the damage done. But, protein is inefficient as an energy source.

After tracking my calories using MyPlate for the better part of a month, you can see where my calories are coming from.  And using the tool has caused to me to more disciplined than I normally am.  You may notice that my calories only add up to 95%.  So where is the other 5%? Some of that is just lost due to rounding (calories in carbs is slightly higher than 4) and some it is the other category above (alcohol). My initial thoughts seeing this data is that I need to eat more carbs and less fat. That is a difficult transition for me because I started a low-carb diet years ago (with success by the way) and that mentality has stuck. The key is to recognize that all carbs are not created equal. In particular, you want to eat slow-burning, "complex" carbs from sources like whole wheat, Quinoa, and Bulgur wheat. Avoid simple carbs like sugar and sucrose which wreak havoc on your blood sugar. Of course, this is for your day-to-day diet. In race nutrition is primarily comprised of simple sugar because it can be converted to energy so quickly. But this is when your body's furnace is running hottest. Some people suggest it is acceptable to eat these sugars right after a long training run as well to replenish glycogen stores. Personally I still prefer the slow burning carbs after a long, hard workout.

Before ending this post, I want to emphasize one thing: consistency. There are no easy answers to this equation. People spend millions of dollars a year on diets that are simple, quick, or the latest fad. In the end, the truth is that people that consistently eat calories close to what their body needs day-in-and-day-out will maintain weight. If you exceed that number, you'll gain weight. Pretty simple. Tracking the sources of calories is helpful to understand how you can eat more without eating more calories (hint: cut out fat!) and how you can leave your body feeling energized all day long. This is particularly important for a runner. But it has other implications. For example, research has shown that cancer growth rate can be slowed by eating less fat. Don't look for a silver bullet solution to your diet. Do the work up front to determine what your body needs, and then be as consistent as you can to hit those goals. And use exercise as an excuse to eat better instead of "rewarding" yourself with junk food. Develop a mentality where you feel you are wasting your hard effort by eating that extra piece of whatever.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekly Training Wrap - 11/21 – 11/27

Week two of my taper is in the books and it felt pretty darn easy. There were two fast runs on back to back days (Wednesday and Thursday), but both were over short distances. My current marathon PR (3:34 at Steamboat) came at the end of a 70 mile training week in June. Thus, I am confident that I am tapering enough.

I spent a little this weekend time considering my race day strategy. There are two variables in particular that I am a thinking about 1) the quantum leap I'm attempting to take in this marathon and 2) the 4500 feet I am dropping altitude. In August of this year, I ran a 1:37:30 half marathon (a 13 minute PR). A little more than three months later, I am hoping to run both halves of a marathon that fast. And the altitude bit has never sat quite right with me and I figured out why. If you are familiar with the piece on hills and altitude, then you may not have noticed one potential flaw with the altitude conversation: there is NO mention of how altitude impacts a runner that lives and trains at high altitude and racing at lower elevation. The research shown is based entirely around a low altitude runner going higher. This begs the question, are the calculations made to adjust for altitude the same in both directions? My gut feeling is/was that this is not the case, much the same as a downhill runner does not benefit as much as an uphill runner loses. In fact, subsequent digging on my part led me to articles that suggested what I suspected: your body is not trained to take 20 seconds off your marathon pace on race day. I am operating under the assumption that I can gain half that benefit (about 10 seconds per mile for me). Starting at this pace leaves a better time in play for me and a little fade if I cannot hold.  The key, as it always is in a marathon, will be to not get too aggressive too early. My goal is to try and hit 7:20-ish splits early and then adapt as the race unfolds.

Another key to my strategy will be glycogen and electrolyte replacement. The race day forecast is for a high of 60 degrees and lows around 40 degrees. It is unlikely to be hot when the race starts (4 pm), but I have not run in temps like that in some time. The good news is that drinking electrolytes (Cytomax) should provide me well over 100 calories per hour.  Add that in with some Roctane every seven miles and I should be able to take in an easy 250 calories per hour.  I have been training with Roctane to make sure my stomach can handle it. I may need a couple S-caps because Cytomax is relatively low in electrolytes for a high-sweat guy like me.

Other than that, I am banking on running down Las Vegas Boulevard under the lights to provide the motivation to help me close out strong!

I've also been thinking of a killer playlist for some motivation, some of the titles included:
- Start Me Up
- In the Air Tonight
- King of Pain
- I Won't Back Down
- Til I Collapse
- Crazy Train
- The Edge of Glory
- Everybody Hurts
- The Future is So Bright
- Nothin' But a Good Time
- Going the Distance
- Lose Yourself
- Life is a Highway

Hopefully my next post is a race report of a 20+ minute PR!

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest
Tuesday 7 GA Pace
Wednesday8 Mile repeats: 6:38, 6:35, 6:29
Thursday 3 Turkey Rock Trot 5K @ 6:38
Friday Rest
Saturday 12 Faster side of LSD (almost GA pace)
Sunday 5 Recovery/Easy pace
Total 35 About 2300 vertical feet gained

Friday, November 25, 2011

Are you are heart runner?

A fellow blogger that recently posted this blog and really got me thinking. In fact, one of the best features of the blog was that he didn't attempt to answer the questions and left it up to the reader. As the reader, I decided to take a crack at answering a few of those questions for myself.

Let me start by saying that I don't like the term "heart runner" because I think that it somehow implies that "head runners" don't run hard or with courage. I don't think that was entirely the idea. The idea, at least as I think of it, is more about how much risk you take in racing. How much you throw caution to the wind and go for it. Or, conversely, how much you measure and calculate everything in an effort to only take quantifiable chances.

In the sections that follow, you will find some the qualities that I think make a "heart runner". Before reading on, know that I am writing this article in consideration of the experienced racer that has a well-defined goal. There are plenty of people that run just for fun and are not covered in the discussion below. I find this type of running very commendable, but I think the factors that go into that type of running are very different.

Properly trained mentally and physically
The elites do know about V02 max, lactate threshold, nutrition, hydration, specificity training and all the various components that go into racing. Dramatized articles and books often tell stories of runners showing up at the starting line with little or no preparation and then winning or setting course records. In truth, this almost never happens. You must be trained to run the distance you intend to race -- particularly endurance races -- or running with your heart will lead to disaster nearly every time. It won't be a 50/50 probability of finishing or having a PR. Instead, it will be a 99.99% probability of a DNF or a total disaster. Even a heart runner must use some data and calculation to his advantage on race day and in goal setting.

Only have one goal
A lot of runners go into a race with more than one goal. And, while I don't take particular issue with that, I think a "B" goal can be come a crutch if an "A" goal seems too hard or unattainable. My guess would be that almost all competitive runners have done this at some point. To me, running with your heart means that after the race is well underway you throw away any "B" goals. You go after the "A" goal at any expense. That means risking a blow up. Is missing a goal by 5 seconds or 5 minutes a different type of failure? I would assert that a "heart runner" is only concerned with one goal and missing by any amount of time is failure to reach the goal. Having a "B" goal just softens the anguish of missing the real goal -- at least outwardly.

Fully accept the outcome
Heart runners don't make excuses. They give it their all and then accept the outcome. All the factors that become excuses are just parts of the story that make it either magic or tragic. But they are not reasons for pity, sympathy, or compliments. They are just part of each unique story that make it worth living!

This year I have had my first experience at both ultrarunning and "advanced" marathon training. While I don't particularly enjoy the amount of precision that goes into advanced marathon training, I do respect it. In the end, training for any length of race is a journey that lasts many weeks and months. And how the runner approaches that journey determines whether she is a "head runner" or a "heart runner". My season has been full of success. I believe that part of my succcess comes from being a predominantly "heart runner". My approach has been to train and prepare like an obsessive person, and then throw my chips on the table and give it 100% on race day. I have not made every "A" goal, but neither have I asked for sympathy in any challenges I've faced. In fact, I find the challenges make the journey even sweeter.

My 50 miler is perhaps the best example. Two weeks before I went to the Leadville Marathon and gave my best effort, beating my goal of 5 hours. The week of my 50 miler, I wound up very sick.  Is it possible that putting a 100% effort into a race two weeks earlier contributed to me getting sick? Yes! The day of my ultra I ran with a 101+ degree fever and terrible stomach problems.  In fact, I barely drank and could not eat for final three hours of a ten hour race.  There were many moments when I tried to persuade myself to pick a "B" goal, effectively quitting.  I am so glad I did not! I missed my goal by more than twenty minutes. (I publicized I was going for 10 hours, but I was really hoping to beat my buddy Tony's 9:42 from 2009). I would not go back and give less than 100% at the Leadville Marathon. And, I cannot definitively say that having a fever hurt me during my ultra. A case could even be made that I paced myself better early in the race because I was ill. It is all just part of my story, and it was an incredible ride.

That is how I feel about "heart running" and "head running". Perhaps I am just rationalizing my way into making myself a heart runner. Perhaps I have tried too hard to put boundaries around this topic in an effort to answer the questions. The beauty of the conversation is that I think it really mirrors how we approach life. Life is such an amazing journey. But it is a journey without guarantees. The best way to ensure success is to learn to enjoy the ride and all the unique aspects that make it your own.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekly Training Wrap - 11/14 – 11/20

This was technically my first taper week. But, other than no midweek MLR, it was still a pretty darn tough week of running. It is hard to express how satisfied I am with the week. Sunday's repeats were particularly satisfactory. Observing my HR and recovery capabilities, I am supremely confident that I have finally located my lactate threshold. Now I need to stay healthy and go make it happen!

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest
Tuesday 8 5 x 600m intervals (6:13 average pace)
Wednesday 6 Easy pace
Thursday 4 Easy pace
Friday Rest
Saturday 16 Easy/LSD pace
Sunday 12 2 x 4 mile repeats at HMP (7:03 average)
Total 46 About 2400 vertical feet gained

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fueling the Runner

Fueling a runner is broken down into two parts:  how much you should eat and what you should eat.  In this first post I will discuss how much to eat and how to determine the right amount for you.  Most of you that know me -- or anyone that has read my story -- know that I have lost more than 65 pounds in the past decade. The majority of that weight loss came in the last two and a half years (40 or 50 pounds of it). Ultimately it took me realizing that eating was the way to weight loss before I could make it happen. Now I am trying to understand how to create a maintenance plan that keeps me feeling energized and fueled for big miles without gaining weight.

Let me begin by laying out some truths, things that took my years to learn and accept. People that don't want to hear the truth about weight loss attribute my story to being a "crazy runner" that logs "sick miles". They don't want to hear that I gained weight during training for my first marathon. Like most people, I viewed the calories I burned as a license to eat more. That mentality is the primary reason that running is not a great way to lose weight. In fact, exercise in general is not the way to lose weight. An hour of exercise is generally less than 1,000 calories for even the most rigorous workouts. One extra helping of dessert or one more cheeseburger can erase that hard work in minutes. What's worse, most people work out for closer to thirty minutes of minimally rigorous exercise -- burning maybe 300 or 400 calories -- and then reward themselves with extra food. They unintentionally create a bigger imbalance between their calorie intake and expenditure. It only takes 100 extra calories a day to gain 10 pounds in one year.  That is less than one soda or one cookie or just a handful of chips to gain 10 pounds! Exercise is great for a weight maintenance plan, but it is lousy as a weight loss plan. I suggest to readers that you view exercise as a motivation to eat less. Don't waste your hard work!

I encourage anyone that is serious about weight loss to consider tracking all their calories for at least two weeks. Track the following: what you ate, your serving size, the calories, the fat, and the sugar. It sounds like a lot of work, but it's really not. There are tools out there to help you. In two weeks time you will get a pretty good idea of your calorie intake and where those calories are coming from (fat, protein, carbohydrates). I found that I was consuming way too many calories in beverages (soda, Starbucks, energy drinks, beer, etc...) and too many simple carbohydrates (surgar, corn syrup, etc...). And, I discovered that things that are sold to me as health products are often coated in sugar or filled with fat to make them taste good.

Lately I have been feeling a little bit lethargic and that led me to research my calorie needs and whether I am getting enough. Perhaps I have gone the other way and become obsessed with calories to the point of fatigue?  I found a great blog post that addresses exactly this subject. I have seen a ton of information that suggest basic rules of thumb on how much to eat: number of calories per pound, percentages of your body weight, or something like that. But this post helps to break down the components of where those calories are needed so that I can adjust as my training adjusts. To determine your calories needed for this model you need your body weight and mileage run.

My weight has settled at about 185 pounds (84 kg). Here is a breakout of my calories needed based on that:
Calories For Calories Per Day Total
Basic Metabolic Rate 1200 8400
Normal Daily Activity 600 4200
Running 55 Miles Per Week 140 cals per mile 7700
Total 20,300 2900

Honestly, I think that is a little low. And I'm not sure I buy the general assumption that everyone needs 1800 calories per day for normal life. As an example, don't I burn more calories at a younger age? Don't I burn more calories as a male that weighs 185 pounds? I continued to research and found an even better post from Runner's World that helps you calculate how many calories you need with a slightly different approach.  This approach uses your age and sex to determine a basic metabolic rate and then applies a multiplier for activity level.  My basic metabolic rate, coincidentally, is roughly 1800 calories (same as above).  But that would not be the case for a woman or if I were younger.

Calories For Selection Calories
Basic Metabolic Rate Male, 31 - 60 years: (84 kg * 11.6) + 879 1853
Activity Level Moderately active x 1.7 3150 per day

Note that I selected "moderately active" as a 55 mile per week runner. Running only takes about one hour a day (averaged over the course of the week). And several of those runs are at moderate/easy paces. More importantly, my job is pretty sedentary and I sit at a desk the rest of the day. Thus, I would not categorize myself as "very active".  When deciding how to classify your activity level, think in terms of your whole life (exercise, job, home life, etc..). For exercise, consider how much time you exercise (on a per day average) and the intensity (heart rate) during the exercise. I would guess that what most people consider exercise falls more closely into normal activity for a human being.

Up to this point, I have sort of smoothed all these calculations over a week to get a daily value. In table 1, I multiplied my weekly mileage and then, after the calculations, I divided by seven to get a daily figure. In table 2, I forced my activity level up to "moderate" because of my running. One could certainly figure out their daily calories needed based on lifestyle only (not including exercises) and then net out exercising. If you are not in a consistent exercise regimen, then it probably makes sense to track your "net" calories on a day-to-day basis.  But, as a runner that consistently hits 50 miles per week, tracking my calories this way would be difficult and may prove to be a detriment to recovery.

Here is an example of how to track your calories day-to-day:

Day Base Calories Calories "Earned" Total Calories
Monday 2200 0 2200
Tuesday 2200 1341 3541
Wednesday 2200 1099 3299
Thursday 2200 794 2994
Friday 2200 0 2200
Saturday 2200 2940 5140
Sunday 2200 845 3045

Using any of the tools above (or MyPlate) you can determine your basic metabolic needs. My lifestyle (without running) is sedentary, meaning my basic calorie needs are minimal (2200 per day according to MyPlate). To make calculations simple, I used 2000 calories per day. On days that I run, I am "earning" more calories to eat. Tuesday I earned an additional 1341 calories for the day, or a total of 3341 that I can eat to maintain my weight. The problem that I have with these calculations is my off days and my long run days (like Saturday).  It would be difficult to adjust my eating each day such that I have a spectrum from 2000 calories all the way to almost 5000! Worse yet, I would have a difficult time eating good quality foods (slow burning carbs and protein) in high enough quantities to eat 5000 calories on Saturday. Instead, I would be forced to eat a diet high in fat (2.5 times the calorie density) in order to achieve that 5000 calories. Smoothing out the calorie intake over the week is much healthier so that I can feed it constant sources of good food. Doing so will allow my body to recover in between runs and on off days.  (By the way, the average of the seven days comes out to 3200 calories per day!)

After reviewing all of this, I am not sure if I am getting enough calories per day.  I think I am close.  Following my own advice, I will monitor my calories for a few days and make sure they are between 2900 and 3200.  With that said, I have a couple other hypothesis about what I can do to help my energy needs in the meantime.  First I will try to eat more, smaller meals (or snacks) throughout the day to keep my energy constant.  Hopefully adding some healthy snacks like almonds or meal replacements (protein shakes) can help with that. And, I will begin to monitor what I'm to make sure I am getting a better breakdown of the major energy sources (protein, carbs, and fat).

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Weekly Training Wrap - 11/07 – 11/13

    My final hard training week of the season! Once again it was challenging.  "Advanced" marathon training is serious business and I have the utmost respect for those that do it consistently.  It takes discipline and determination to consistently follow paces and measuring heart rates to get the most benefit.  I'm glad I did it, and I think I'm a better runner for it.  That said, I don't see myself doing another cycle like this for a while.  I guess that is obvious since my entire 2012 will be built around LT100.  I won't rule out the possibility of running a marathon as a training run (or for fun), but I certainly don't see another Pftiz cycle in my 2012 plans.  Now that I've been through a cycle like this, I can honestly say I spent most of the year running at conservative, easy paces (probably 75% of my max HR or below).  It was probably a great way to build a huge mileage base without getting hurt.

    I have been in "training" for one race or another since January of this year.  Technically I was supposed to start following an 18-week Pfitz cycle on August 1st, which was only two weeks after my 50 mile race.  In reality, I took the better part of a month to recovery and feel right before training hard again.  It wasn't until GTIS in mid-August that I began to feel like myself again.  Add it all up and I have been following a training plan for at least nine of the eleven months in 2011.  It's exciting to me to have some time off after Las Vegas RnR to do whatever I want and just enjoy running!  I am kind of hoping to get in some winter trail runs and just enjoy the mountains that we are so privileged to live near.  I won't get much of a break because I'll likely start building my mileage early in the New Year.  I'm looking at a 50 miler in April to start off the ultra season.

    Day Miles Notes
    Monday Rest
    Tuesday 7 Easy pace
    Wednesday11 2 x 3 miles: 6:43 avg for first 3, 7:15 avg for second 3
    Thursday 11 MLR at an easy pace
    Friday 5 Recovery pace
    Saturday 20 Easy/LSD pace
    Sunday 6 Recovery pace
    Total 60 About 3800 vertical feet gained

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    LT 100 - Training Strategy

    This post is probably about 2 months too early, but my mind is already spinning with ideas. So, I will put them down now and revise as necessary. My general idea for training for the LT100 is to gear it toward what I think will be the most important factors in success.  At this point I view those factors as follows:
    • Big miles and lots of time on my feet
    • Fast hiking
    • Nutrition
    I did not put those in order of importance because I think they are just about equally important. Obviously logging big miles and time on my feet is going to be huge because I've never done a race of more than 10 hours before. At a minimum, I will be on my feet about two and one-half that to complete the 100. Having logged my first huge mileage year, I can tell you that I am a firm believe that the best predictor of success is miles run. Fast hiking is an underrated part of ultra running. If you can hike a steep incline between 3 and 4 miles per hour, then you have a chance to put in quality ultra finishes. Ideally you can fast hike (or power walk) closer to 4 MPH. The two most dramatic parts of this course are Hope Pass and Sugar Loaf Pass -- being able to fast hike when tired will be a huge asset. And finally, the obvious selection, nutrition. All endurance events have to consider nutrition. But of course a race in which you are running for more than 24 hours will amplify the needs. I had struggles at my first attempt to complete 50 miles and am particularly concerned about being prepared. The biggest concern to me is maintaining electrolyte balance in a variety of conditions as Leadville can range from 30 degrees at night to the high 80's during the day. Due the large amount of walking, I am not overly concerned at this point about my ability to take in food at the slower pace.

    Based on all that, here is what I hope will be the backbone of my training for the year:
    • A plan that pushes me to 70 miles (or more) six to ten times
    • At least a half dozen weeks with back-to-back long runs
    • Lots of hiking (ideally a few 14ers for hiking and altitude)
    • Several races (or training runs) in the ultra category for nutrition, hiking, time on my feet, and altitude
    • At least one long run in the middle of the night, possibly as the back half of a B2B with only 8 - 10 hours of recovery
    • Ideally there will be guy's weekend in July to spend several days in Leadville to train on area 14ers and Hope Pass.
    Here is a list of potential races that I am considering:
    Collegiate Peaks - April 28th, 2012
    Collegiate Peaks is a twenty-five mile loop course in Buena Vista, CO.  While it is not quite a vertical monster, it is a very popular early season ultra in Colorado.

    Colorado Marathon - May 6th, 2012
    One of the best marathons in Colorado -- scenic and downhill!

    Golden Gate Dirty Thirty - June 3rd, 2012
    A single track 50k in the Golden Gate park near Black Hawk, Colorado.

    The San Juan Solstice 50 - June 23rd, 2012
    This is a tough, tough 50 mile race with more than 13K feet of climbing.  Some say it is the hardest (or one of) 50 miler in the country.  In fact, it is considered a "mini-Hardrock".  There is a rule of thumb you can take your time in this race and double it to predict your LT100 time.  I like the location of this race on the calendar because it would give me 2 months to recover before the LT100.

    Leadville Silver Rush 50 - July 15th, 2012
    A darn good 50 mile race that offers altitude, heat and 8,000 feet of climbing.  As a past finisher of this race, I know the course and the difficulty.  I think this course would help me acclimate to Leadville.   But is it too close to the LT100?  I worry that anything near a race effort in this event could require too much recovery only 5 weeks before the main event.

    Speedgoat 50k- July 28th, 2012
    A super gnarly 50k in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.  The course is put on by Karl Meltzer and contains nearly 11,000 feet of elevation gain.

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Weekly Training Wrap - 10/31 – 11/06

    Another tough week of training down!  In fact, considering the weighted average speed of my miles, this might be the fastest week of running I've ever done.  There were three very tough runs in this workout:  Tuesday was an aggressive paced MLR, Wednesday was one of my faster tempo runs ever and then Saturday with the MP miles.  Saturday's run in particular gave me the confidence that I am marathon ready.  My mind is starting to think in terms of 3:15 rather than 3:20.  And if the altitude is as much of an advantage as I hope it will be, then maybe even a few minutes lower than that.  My average pace for the MP miles was 7:27 and that translates into a 3:15 marathon.  And even running half of those into a stiff breeze, I did not blow out my HR (average 162 or so for MP miles).  Altitude calculations suggest that I could take as much as 18 seconds per mile off that 7:27 pace to account for the 4,000 foot difference on race day.  That would be up to 8 minutes!  Now I don't think that is going to be quite right for me for two reasons.  The first is that I suspect Saturday's MP miles were a touch faster than MP.  And the second is that I have not consistently trained for a sub 3:15 marathon on my workouts.  Plus, altitude math is somewhat theoretical in nature.  Nonetheless, I'd say a 3 - 5 minute cushion on race day sounds about right.

    This week will be a bit slower in pace (on aggregate) as I focus a bit more on endurance and wrap up this final week of Pfitz training!  I have my final 20 mile training run (maybe for the year?) and I have not quite decided how I will approach it yet.  It's getting tough not to let my focus drift to Leadville, but I am confident the work I am doing now is preparing me for Leadville.  And I am so late in training, that I can see this race coming together beautifully.

    Before wrapping up this post, I have to mention my new marathon shoes, the Saucony Fastwitch.  I tried them out Saturday having only worn them an aggregate of about 30 minutes before my MP run.  They performed well.  I think that anyone looking to get some of the benefits of a minimal shoe (light weight, very little heel-to-toe drop) while still maintaining some support should really consider them.

    Day Miles Notes
    Monday Rest
    Tuesday 11 MLR at GA pace
    Wednesday8 5 tempo miles: 7:18, 7;13, 7:08, 7:03, 7:03
    Thursday 6 Recovery
    Friday Rest
    Saturday 18 14 MP miles averaging 7:27
    Sunday 7 Recovery
    Total 50 About 2000 vertical feet gained

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    LT 100 - The Journey Begins

    The Leadville Race Series opened their races for registration yesterday and I took the leap. I am officially in for the 100 mile trail run on August 18, 2012. After I hit the "submit" button on the registration page, I had an immediate moment of anxiety where I thought "holy %^&*, I just did it!". A buddy of mine compared that moment to "that awesome and scary moment you encounter in poker where you go 'ALL IN'". Of course in poker you know your fate in less than a minute. I will have to wait ten months to see how it unfolds for me. A few minutes after I signed up, it was all I could think about. That was all the proof I needed that I made the right decision.

    Was there really a doubt I was going to attempt it?  No. Leadville has been all that I have thought about the past 12 months. In fact, I've been compiling race day strategies, tips, and training plans since I finished the Silver Rush 50 miler last July. Running 100 miles seems unfathomable and borderline insane to most people. And there are a million rational reasons NOT to do it.  So why am I craving the chance to try? Because I can. Because it's there. I wish I had a more in depth response, but I'm still figuring it out myself. Maybe this video will help explain it.

    I will have hundreds of conversations and dozens of blog posts about this journey. For the moment, I want to post a quick preview of the course. The image below shows the elevation profile. It is an out and back course: the first 50 miles are left to right on the image. Then you turn around and return, essentially going right to left on that image. The large spike in the middle of the run is Hope Pass. You cross it twice in a 20 mile stretch and, for most people, it determines the fate of their race. If you reach the 60 mile aid station within the cutoff time, the probability of finishing increases dramatically. The peak elevation on Hope Pass is 12,600 feet. The weather is unpredictable and the air is thin. The Winfield aid station is the midway point and just after the first trip across Hope Pass. More people quit at that aid station than any other.

    Instead of medals, finishers are given belt buckles (a 100 mile tradition). There are two obvious goals when attempting this race. The first is to finish under the 30 hour cut off. And they don't give you even one more minute. The second goal is to finish in 25 hours and get the "big buckle". The majority of finishers do not make the 25 hour cut off. Historically, the 30 hour finish rate is roughly 50%.

    My current goal is just to finish (but stay tuned because I may change my mind). That appears to be a fairly conservative strategy because my Silver Rush 50 time of 10 hours projects me as a 26 hour finisher. And I have only gotten stronger since then.  It is not out of the question that I could go for a 25 hour finish. Given the amount of unpredictability that goes into running 100 miles, it would not be a wise decision to think like that on my first attempt. Certainly I have some more aggressive splits in mind if I feel strong. Those splits probably won't come into play until I've gone over Hope Pass both times. With the hardest part of the race behind me, I can assess how strong I feel and whether to push the pace for a strong finish.

    The cliff's notes version of race day strategy for a finisher is:
    1. Run most of the first 40 miles at an easy pace
    2. SURVIVE two trips over Hope Pass
    3. Muster up what ever energy and will power you have left to walk, run, or crawl to the finish
    The table below is a more detailed breakdown of my "finish" strategy by aid station.  In the article linked below, this is similar to the "Buckler Pattern".
    Destination Section Miles Cumulative Miles Section Time Cumulative Time Cutoff Time
    May Queen 13.5 13.5 2:30 2:30 3:25
    Fish Hatchery 10 23.5 2:15 4:45 6:00
    Halfmoon 7 30.5 1:35 6:20 8:00
    Twin Lakes 9 39.5 2:05 8:25 10:00
    Winfield 10.5 50 4:05 12:30 14:00
    Twin Lakes 10.5 60.5 4:10 16:40 17:45
    Halfmoon 9 69.5 3:05 19:45 20:45
    Fish Hatchery 7 76.5 1:55 21:45 23:00
    May Queen 10 86.5 3:55 25:40 26:30
    Finish 13.5 100 4:05 29:45 30:00

    You can find additional strategies here.

    Note that the race starts at 4:00 am on Saturday.  This table suggests I would finish at just before 10:00 am on Sunday.  My crew and I will likely have been awake for 36 hours by that point.  And, if I make it, I don't think I will be going to bed right away.

    Now I have taken step one of the journey.  (Or maybe it's a giant leap?)  All that is left to do is lots and lots of hard work.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    Weekly Training Wrap - 10/24 – 10/30

    This week brought our first real blast of winter weather. As a result, my schedule seemed in flux all week long.  First I switched my MLR and my GA run to accommodate the impending weather. And then Saturday I was supposed to do 18 with 14 at marathon pace. However the one long, flat training area around is a breeze/crushed gravel trail and still had too much remaining snow. Now I get to attempt that run next Saturday! On the whole this week didn't seem that hard. I would almost describe it as a "maintenance" week where I sort of just kept and fine-tuned my fitness -- makes sense considering I pushed the hardest run of the week off the calendar.

    I finished the month of October with 233 miles, my fourth largest of the year.  Since I will be tapering for half the month, my November mileage will drop off significantly.

    A little random thing I thought I would share: This week I reread Lance Armstrong's book "It's Not About the Bike". I have read it several times in the past, but not since I've learned what it means to be an endurance athlete. It's a very inspiring book and an interesting read because you can compare the man he is today to the man he described himself as in the book.

    Day Miles Notes
    Monday Rest
    Tuesday 12 MLR at GA pace
    Wednesday8 GA run in snow
    Thursday 10 Intervals 5 x 1000: 6:30, 6:22, 6:22, 6:18, 6:18
    Friday Rest
    Saturday 17 LSD run with 1250' vertical
    Sunday 5 Recovery with a little burst
    Total 52 About 3300 vertical feet gained

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    Why I Run

    But struggling and suffering, as I now saw it, were the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not constantly demanding more from yourself—expanding and learning as you go—you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip. -- Dean Karnazes
    Recently I have been debating a few buddies about purpose, passion, and inspiration in life. And the conversation has focused primarily on the workplace and our jobs. Like many people, work has become a real source of frustration and energy drain. Is it because the unusual and hard circumstances facing the middle class?  Or, perhaps, it is because the three of us happen to be at similar stages of life and are reaching dissatisfaction at the same time? I'm not sure and I don't think it really matters.

    Our debate has heightened with the death of Steve Jobs because he is famous for inspiring people and credited with "never working a day in his life". And while I think that is a great thing to aspire to, I'm not sure it's something that everyone can expect in their life.  In fact, it is my opinion that we sometimes glamorize other peoples' lives because they seem better than our own.  Here are a few reasons why I don't think that Jobs' life is for everyone:
    • Not everyone has the risk profile, creative mind, or entrepreneurial spirit that Steve Jobs possessed
    • If you've ever read Outliers, then you have to give some credit to the idea that our success is determined by factors we don't control
    • For every entrepreneur, there simply have to be thousands of others that make a business work.  The majority of those people cannot have the autonomy and power needed to love their job the way he did
    • This entire argument is based, at least to a degree, on the idea that we all measure success by bank accounts and stock options
    • This line of thinking almost dismisses the idea that Steve Jobs had tough periods in his life
    • Even people that love their jobs occasionally succumb to the pressures and have it feel like "work"
    So what does this have to do with running? Well one of the main reasons that I run is to find inspiration, passion and happiness in my life. If you have read my story, then you know that I used to be just another member of the heard. My long journey through running has lead me to places I never thought when I started. I am not just a freak of nature born with superior running skills. The early years of running were difficult as I struggled with weight and motivation. Earlier this year, I struggled with very bad knee tendinitis that had me questioning whether my goals for the year were even possible. Here I am more than 10 years later -- down 65 pounds -- and finally starting to understand what it means to live a healthy life.

    This summer I decided to run my first ultramarathon. When I signed up to do it, it had nothing to do with inspiring myself or anyone else. The primary reason I signed up was to have a BIG challenge to train for. Somewhere along the way things changed. I was getting stronger and healthier every time I ran.  It became effortless and fun. All my personal best times began to fall with ease. And it was all because I worked hard at it. There was a direct link between my hard work and  the results. How often does that happen in corporate America?

    And another funny thing happened, I inspired other people!  My daughter ran her first 10K with me (and finished in the top 10% of her age group by the way).  She spent weeks preparing for that race and has become one of the better runners in her school.  Later in the summer my kids both torched a 2K run in Marble, CO.  Before this year my wife pretty much hated running.  She ran two half marathons in under 2 hours each.  Countless other people that I know began asking me for advice about running.  My sister made the absolutely incredible sacrifice of flying out here for barely more than 48 hours just to be a member of my ultra crew.  Then she went on to run a darn good marathon of her own later in the summer.  I made numerous new friends and even enhanced some relationships with existing friends.

    Those who run long are not freaks of nature. We are not a handful of chosen ones blessed with indefatigable muscle and indestructible cartilage. Nor do we have indomitable willpower that others lack. If anything sets us apart it is a kind of sensitivity. We can hear a faint chord vibrating on old and brittle strings. It begins to resonate through us when we rise predawn for a morning run. The sound builds the longer we stay at it. On a long run through the mountains our attention becomes focused, in tune, automatic. Each footfall and each breath synchronized with a primal tune. Ours is a re-creation of once necessary dispositions. -- Powell, Bryon. Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons

    The other beautiful thing about running -- running long in particular -- is that each run is a microcosm of life.  There are almost always parts of the run where you struggle and have to preserver. There is a constant struggle to balance between enjoying the moment and pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. We learn to embrace and overcome pain and weakness.  If you run with friends, the ups and downs are evident in your interaction with one another. During period of the run you are joking, teasing and really enjoying one another's company. And at other times you are too busy struggling to say a word.

    The week before my ultramarathon I developed a virus that caused me to run a 101 degree fever. And, for reasons still unclear to me, I had terrible stomach discomfort that kept me from eating and drinking the last three hours of my run. The competitor in me wishes that those things had not happened because they ruined my chances at reaching my goal time. But the human side of me wouldn't change a thing because I learned so much about myself on that day. Everyone has a story, but those that involve struggle and sacrifice make for more gripping theater.

    Those of us that look for passion and meaning in life in our work are likely to come up empty more often than not. Perhaps people are living lives that are too comfortable. As part of a modern industrial society, we have many conveniences in our lives. But I believe the true beauty in life is overcoming adversity and finding a way to enjoy the journey. Running appeals to me because it is such a simple sport and it reveals your character in raw form.

    As I close this, I want to leave you with a video shared with me by a running friend.